THOUSANDS of women from all over the world continue to be lured to the Middle East with the promise of steady jobs only to instead be tortured and raped by their employers, according to reports.
Khaleda Akhter, 28, has just spent months inside a Bangladeshi-run safe house in Saudi Arabia, and was yesterday wrapped in bandages and on her way home to Bangladesh to see her two children.
Like thousands of other women who also migrated to work as maids in the Gulf kingdom, Ms Akhter fled her employers, following months of physical and mental abuse.
“They tried to burn me,” Ms Akhter told the Middle East Eye.
“Not once, but twice. If I knew this would happen, I would never have gone.”
Another former domestic worker who travelled to Saudi Arabia for employment before escaping told news.com.au she was regularly “tortured by [her] master”.
There are more than a million domestic maids working in Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter where many families employ foreign home help.
Rights organisations say many domestic maids work in difficult circumstances, do not know Arabic and often suffer from abuse by their employers.
One of the most shocking cases emerged in 2014 when a Sri Lankan maid returned from Saudi Arabia with 24 nails inside her body. The woman alleged that her Saudi employer had tortured her and drove nails into her body as punishment.
In another incident, Indonesian housemaid Sumiati Binti Mustapa, 23, was severely beaten by her Saudi employer who put a hot iron to her head, mutilated her with scissors and left her with broken bones and internal bleeding in 2010. The offender was later sentenced to three years jail.
A United Nations report released earlier this month warned that more needed to be done to prevent the exploitation and abuse of domestic workers in the Middle East.
The “implementation and enforcement remain major challenges, and continuing and credible allegations of abuse and fraudulent behaviour continue to plague the sector”, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), a UN agency, report said.
ILO estimated that nearly one in five of the world’s migrant domestic workers live in the Middle East, a total of 3.16 million people of which 1.6 are women — although the organisation claims that may be a conservative estimate.
“Important progress has been made over the last few years by a number of countries in the Middle East towards legislative change to protect migrant workers,” the ILO report read.
“Yet implementation and enforcement remain major challenges, and continuing and credible allegations of abuse and fraudulent behaviour continue to plague the sector.”
According to the organisation, existing laws are often not followed, pointing to its survey of employer attitudes in Lebanon, Jordan and Kuwait, where it says there is “a significant degree of misinformation and noncompliance with existing laws and regulations”.
The organisation said it would support governments in reforming the system.
In 2018, at least 1000 Bengali maids returned to Bangladesh to escape physical and sexual abuse in Saudi, according to local non-government organisation BRAC.
Another woman, who didn’t want to be identified, told local media she arrived in Saudi Arabia late last year for a job as a domestic worker but was instead “taken to different apartments where men of Arab descent tortured” her.
“I received no salary but only violence and sickness during my days,” she said.
IT’S BEEN HAPPENING FOR YEARS
It’s an issuing that has been taking place for years.
In 2016, a woman from Kurigram in northern Bangladesh who went to Saudi Arabia as a housemaid, became pregnant after she was raped by her employer. She took shelter at the Bangladesh embassy in Riyadh and was sent back home, broken and forever changed.
According to Bangladesh embassy in Riyadh, Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment, Wage Earners Welfare Board and families of victim women, as many as 150 women from the country were victims of physical and mental torture in Saudi Arabia in 2015.
Their figures were sourced from the Bangladesh embassy in Riyadh, where its nationals can flee to safe houses in a bid to escape work burden and torture.
There have also been numerous reports of domestic workers from other countries including Kenya and India being subjected to abuse at the hands of their employers in Saudi Arabia.
In 2009, US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) slammed a Saudi Arabian court decision to drop charges against an employer accused of abusing an Indonesian maid so severely she lost her fingers and toes.
HRW said Nour Miyati had been beaten daily and forced to work long hours without rest for her Saudi employers, knocking out a tooth and damaging one of her eyes.
A judge who reviewed the case in Riyadh awarded Ms Miyati about $US670 for her injuries but dropped charges against the wife of her employer, who had earlier confessed to abusing the maid and had been sentenced by a lower court to 35 lashes.
“This outrageous ruling sends a dangerous message to Saudi employers that they can beat domestic workers with impunity, and that victims have little hope of justice,’’ Nisha Varia, senior researcher in the women’s rights division at HRW, said at the time.
Source – News.com.AU